EXCERPTS from Helen Oyibo’s interview with Joe Igbokwe, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Drainage & Water Resources.
HO: You posted one very dramatic picture on hearing about the arrest of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu; raised your hands in the air, thanking God for your life. What was going through your mind?
Joe Igbokwe: “He (Kanu) said, on Radio Biafra, that if they see me, his boys, they should behead me and kill all my children, destroy my home and I played it down but I put my life in the hands of God and that of my family because I was asking myself, I was like has it gotten to this, that you cannot hear voices that are not saying no, we can’t go this way.
”I’m older than him, I saw the civil war, he didn’t see the civil war. I know what we went through, I couldn’t go to school during the civil war, I was in Primary 5 when the war started in 1967 and after the war, I started again from Primary 5 and I understand what played out, the casualties, the pain, the tears, the losses, my father lost his business and we said, do we have to go through this way again?
“Having seen it all because I know what he doesn’t know and I have seen what he has not seen, I have the experience, I have seen it all and I have the history behind me. Has it gotten to this that if you have dissent voices then the person has to be killed?
“It could have been worse, many people died. I am not celebrating death; I’m just thanking God that at least I may be a little bit free… Again, I’m looking at the big picture too; do we have to go this way again?”
“Again, I am looking at the big picture too. Do we have to go this way again? Because my people will say if elders are not at home, children will wear snakes, and call them necklaces.”
HO: You talk about the pains of the Civil War and some people will say the memories as well as the inability of the Country to truly compensate for the loss (marginalisation) might be a reason why the likes of Nnamdi Kanu are calling for a separation. What are your thoughts on it?
Joe Igbokwe: “It’s not the option, you negotiate, you go to the conference table to negotiate because you may say we have been marginalized, yes because, after all, we have the least number of states if you compare us to other zones, it is denying us a lot of things but if you place the three major ethnic groups on the table, Igbo is not the last in terms of anything, education, wealth, cash, we are not the last. I won’t tell you we are the first but I won’t tell you we are the last.
“Enterprising spirit is our culture, our tradition but they are not doing the business in the southeast, across everywhere, Lagos, Kaduna, Sokoto. Igbos are widely travelled people, we need the space, we can go anywhere, why are you asking for a small space? There’s no ethnic group in Nigeria widely travelled as our people. An Igbo man will go to a place and start a small business and start booming.
“What I want is that the Federal Government should give Igbos additional states, I’ve been advocating for that for years now, just one state because we work hard in this country, we built Abuja, a sizeable part of Abuja, if all the governors gather here in Abuja, we will be the least — five others have six.
“Kanu’s arrest was serious international diplomacy, a delicate and seamless operation that must have taken years to plan. So, take the leader away and the followers will scatter.”
HO: Again, how can you respond to criticisms that the FG is deploying resources with a big sledgehammer on a fly in the case of Nnamdi Kanu and haven’t employed their energy, resources and attention to the rising spate of Boko Haram and the newest (banditry and kidnappings) to quell insecurity?
Joe Igbokwe: “That is the argument of the weak human beings, you want to compare Sambisa Forest to the South-East that is smaller than Kogi State. Bandits come to kidnap for money, you pay them and they release you, that is their business, those people may not even be Nigerians. It is not war, it is not secession. In fact, in the Supreme Court of Nigeria when the issue of secession came up, the Supreme Court will not entertain it; we don’t discuss it.
“You don’t talk about it, tribes must die for you to build a nation? It is unheard of, we have made mistakes in the past, we don’t want to make them again. It is a delicate, complicated matter. Almost 400 young men lost their lives in two months.”
Share your thoughts